Ryan Photographic - Caecilians - Gymnophiona

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Order Gymnophiona

Most caecilians are fossorial - that is they burrow in the ground (although some species are aquatic or at least semi-aquatic). As a result, they are very rarely seen. Although I have spent a significant amount of time in tropical rainforests where caecilians live I have yet to see one in the wild. Amphibiaweb lists 205 species in 30 genera but because of their secretive nature I expect this number to double as new species are found. They are mostly tropical in distribution and are found in South and Central America, Southern Asia and Africa.

Most caecilians look like an earth worm, although they are not segmented, skin rings (annuli) give this impression. As a result, many caecilians probably are mistaken for earthworms. Very little is known about caecilians but at least some of them possess toxic skin secretions which may confer some protection against predation. Their eyes are poorly developed but can presumably distinguish between light and dark. Tentacles located between their eyes and nostrils are probably involved in scent detection.

Caecilians are the only amphibian group that exclusively carries out internal fertilisation. The male inserts a penis-like structure, the phallodeum, into the female's cloaca and deposits sperm through it. Some of their reproductive behavior is quite extraordinary and in one species the female feeds the youngsters on her own skin. Because I don't want to be accused of plagiarism I suggest you go and read about it here if you are interested.



Common name

Typhlonectes natans Caecilian 2 thumb Typhlonectes natans Rubber eel








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